Squid Game Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Song Gi-hoon (Lee Jong-jae), at forty-eight years old, is a typical loser. He does not have a normal job, his wife left him, taking his little daughter. Song Gi-hoon lives with his mother, who is very ill, he has no money, but he has a gambling addiction, because of which he owes large sums to all sorts of very bad people.

Mom reminds Song Ki-hoon that today is his daughter’s birthday, so he should meet his daughter, give her some gift and take her daughter to eat chicken, which she loves very much. Since Song Ki-hoon has no money, his mother gives him ten thousand won (about nine dollars), and Song Gi-hoon grumbles that he can’t buy a damn thing with that money.

When mom leaves for work, Song Ki-hoon takes out mom’s credit card – he knows where it is hidden – and goes with his friend to try to withdraw money from her. Oddly enough, he manages to guess the pin code, they withdraw money, after which … they go to bet on the races. But these races are announced by the guys from the mafia, whom Song Ki-hoon owes money, as a result of which he will be left without money and with a broken face.

Son Ki-hoon pulls out a gift for his daughter from the slot machine, and since he only had some pennies left, the daughter had to be taken to eat at the cheapest eatery.

After returning his daughter to his wife, Song Ki-hoon comes to the subway and, while waiting for the train, thinks about how to live on in general, because his prospects are very, very gloomy. And then some man in a good suit invites Song Ki-hoon to play the children’s game “turn the envelope”. It is played with sheets of thick paper folded into a square. You need to hit your opponent’s square hard with your square and turn it over. If Song Ki-hoon can flip the square, the man says, he will receive one hundred thousand won for each win. If the man wins, he will slap Song Ki-hoon.

As a result, Song Ki-hoon’s face was somewhat swollen from the slaps, but he received a lot of money. And the man invited Song Ki-hoon to take part in a serious game in which he could win a really huge amount, which would completely change his life. But what kind of game – the man does not say.

One way or another, Song Ki-hoon decides to try this game because he has nothing to look forward to. He, like other players, is brought in the strictest secrecy to a certain building located on a small island. All personal belongings are taken away from the players and they are dressed in the same tracksuits.

Players are told that over the next six days they will have to play six easy games that they played as children. The prize amount is huge, and it will also increase with each next eliminated player.

The players – four hundred and fifty-six of them, with the number 456 sewn onto Song Ki-hoon’s sweatshirt – are taken out into the courtyard, where they have to play a simple game in which they have to move when the leader turns away and freeze in place when the leader turns. And during this game, it turns out that the losers are simply killed immediately.


On October 13 this year, it became known that the South Korean TV series “The Squid Game” has become the most popular Netflix project: since its launch on September 17, 2021, 111 million people have watched it (in Netflix, viewing counts from two minutes of inclusion). The series overtook even the series “The Bridgertons”, which was watched by about 82 million people in twenty-eight days. “The Squid Game” topped dozens of charts in ninety-two countries and became the first South Korean series to top the chart in the United States.

True, with the popularity of this series, a certain advertising effect was nevertheless observed: a week after the start of the series on Netflix, the head of the content service, Ted Sarandos, spoke at a conference in Beverly Hills, where he shared the numbers of the main hits of Netflix and said that, judging by the dynamics , the recently released Korean series “Squid Game” can break many viewing records. (Netflix itself expected it to come in second behind The Bridgertons.)

Of course, this statement itself seriously attracted additional attention to the series, but Netflix often resorts to such ways to additionally advertise their potential hits, so there is nothing surprising in this.

By the way, “The Squid Game” was originally developed as a full-length film, and it was in this form – a two-hour film – that the application was submitted to Netflix. However, Netflix Asian curator Kim Min-young decided that this was not the best format for such a story, so the author of the idea was asked to rework the script into a series.

Screenwriter Hwang Dong-hyuk, who wrote this story based on some moments in his own life when he was left virtually destitute, revised the script (it was written ten years earlier) and expanded it to nine episodes, after which Netflix, which began investing in South Korean projects since 2015, financed the creation of this series in its entirety. (The sets were built specifically for the series.)

Is this series really that good, does it really stand out from other series, does it deserve such wild popularity? And then, after all, a considerable number of critics write that the series is very secondary, that all this has already happened and that it owes its popularity only to the poor education of the mass audience, who does not know where it all was copied from. (In the epigraphs, I cited a passage by Pavel Surkov from RIA Novosti, where he complains about the stupidity of the mass audience, this is quite typical.)

However, God bless them, with critics, for many of them the main task is to show how smart they are and how stupid the audience is, since they allow themselves to admire not at all what the critics point to. In addition, many critics consider it necessary to properly criticize a project that attracts a lot of attention from ordinary viewers in order to show that they are not like everyone else!

But this series is really very, very good, Bagel and I liked it extremely. Yes, of course, the history of brutal survival games is not new at all, and it has appeared in many books and films. Showrunner, screenwriter and director of this series Hwang Dong-hyuk himself said that he was inspired by the best representatives of this genre. And here “Royal Battle”, “Hunger Games”, “The Terrible Will of the Gods” and the same animated series “Kaiji” come to mind. Well, I would also add a link to the little-known film “13” by Gela Babluani, in which the players played Finland roulette, and very few winners will receive a solid cash prize.

However, to make claims that the basis of the plot of a work is similar to the basis of the plot of another work is a rather slippery slope, because in this way one can agree that Ilf and Petrov wrote off the “Twelve Chairs” from the story “Six Napoleons” by Conan Doyle: both here and there the main characters were looking for jewels, hidden in the first case in one of the six busts of Napoleon, and in the second – in one of the twelve chairs of Master Gumbs.

The “Squid Game” really uses the theme of violent games, where the losers are shot, but I would not call this series imitative in any way: it is completely independent, well staged and played, it has excellent dramaturgy and has everything you need to become a hit, what he became. In addition, it has noticeable differences from all the aforementioned films and series.

The beginning of The Squid Game, by the way, does not make a noticeable impression. Some damn loser, and a very unpleasant one: a brawler, a liar, a gamer, he steals money from his own mother to spend it on the races, he is not even able to arrange a decent birthday for his own daughter – this beginning is somewhat reminiscent of the South Korean one ” Old fight” Chen-Wook Pak. However, just as “Old Boy” then quickly turns into an outstanding film, “The Squid Game” turns into an outstanding series.

Firstly, it has a lot of more than interesting visual and staging solutions. Secondly, it has a lot of interesting characters. Thirdly, these characters form certain clans that are at enmity with each other. Fourthly, both among the players and among the employees of the Game there are people who can run from clan to clan or provide services to the leaders of some clans. Fifth, the players do not know what game they will play the next day, and when they are asked to form a game group, the clan leaders do not know exactly who to invite to the game group, because it is completely unknown what qualities will be needed in the next game. : strength and endurance, compactness and diminutiveness, good wit or anything else.

In addition, here, in addition to the Game itself and the players, there are many important branches. This is a demonstration of obvious social injustice, class division and financial inequality in South Korea, which is typical for many other countries, and the story of a policeman who sneaks into the island where his brother died some time ago in the Game, where he pretends to be a staff member of the Game, and an episode with VIP guests (of course, these are damned British) watching the game from their box, and a story about how long the Game has existed, how it was born and who is behind it.

There is also a very important point that noticeably distinguishes The Squid Game from similar works. This is a spoiler, so I’ll make it hidden.

In the second series, the organizers of the Game make it very clear that the players can stop all this and return to their normal lives – with a simple vote. The majority will vote to stop the Game – they will all be returned to the point where they were taken. And the majority of players (minimum, but nonetheless) vote to stop the Game. And they really are all returned to their normal lives. However, they can return to the Game again – and they still do it due to their personal circumstances. And this is an important point: in other films, the players were somehow forced to take part in the game, because if they refused, they would still be killed. Here everything is not so.

But still, the most important thing here is the main characters, their backstories, their history in the Game, their behavior in the Game and how it all ends for them.

Song Gi-hoon himself is very interesting. It’s not for nothing that we are shown his miserable life for about half of the first series: we need to understand why he accepted the offer to take part in the Game, we need to understand who he is and what drives him, and it will be more interesting to watch how he will act in The game: what decisions will he make, what will he do when he has to choose between conscience and the desire to simply survive.

Among other notable characters is Song Gi-hoon’s childhood friend Cho Sang-woo (Game number 218), the main hope of the entire area: a gifted guy, the first student of the school, who graduated from Seoul University, became the head of an investment group and … eventually lost all his money, and customer money.

Well, other important characters.

Grandpa Oh Il-nam (Game number 001) is an old man with incipient dementia and a brain tumor who does not want to just wait for death, so he came to the Game. Song Ki-hoon develops a very friendly relationship with him.

Gangster Jang Deok-soo (Game number 101) is a tough gangster who lost a lot of money and owes money to other gangsters. He is the main alpha male in the Game, to whom other players try to join the team. (By the way, there is an interesting story with the actor Ho Song-tae, who played the gangster. It turns out that he speaks English very well. and supervised the sale of televisions to the EU/US market.)

Kang Se-bek (Game number 067) is a young refugee from North Korea. She once worked for Jang Dok-soo, then ran away from him. A girl needs money to bring her mother, who lives in North Korea, to South Korea.

Ali Abdul (Game number 199) is a guest worker from Pakistan who does not speak Korean well. Apparently, an illegal immigrant. A beggar, humble, he went to Igra to provide for his wife and one-year-old son.

Han Mi-nyeo (Game number 212) is a cunning, slippery and slightly hysterical woman who first hooks up with a gangster, then joins Song Gi-hoon’s group, but in any case she pursues her own interests.

There are other notable characters, but they are quite minor.

In the series, as I said, there are many excellent visual and production decisions. Yes, Hwang Dong-hyuk was inspired by a lot and there are some direct quotes here, but the way it’s staged, shot and edited is very impressive. The series are almost all good (half of the first series just needs to be endured, because it introduces the main character of the “Squid Game” into the story), but there is a completely mind-blowing sixth series, where a completely unexpected idea about the conditions of the game is implemented, and a very bright seventh series with another glass bridge game.

In the finale, in the last episode, it is told about who was the customer of the Game and why, and a certain reserve is made for the second season, which, apparently, will definitely be: showrunner Hwang Dong-hyuk said in an interview that he has ideas for the second season.

Some viewers guessed who would be the winner and win the main prize, others did not guess, some viewers found certain indications of who was behind the entire Game, but many did not, but this is not the main thing in this case.

The main thing here is how it’s all staged and played. And it is staged and played just fine, and, despite certain South Korean specifics, the story told is close and understandable to viewers from many countries. This is really very well done, and this series, in my opinion, is a must-see. Well, I note that, despite a certain cruelty and bloodiness of the games themselves, it is not at all as bloody as most Asian films. And it’s not about killings per se. It’s about how different people act in some difficult circumstances.

And I’m waiting for the second season. I am sure that Hwang Dong-hyuk will not disappoint me.

PS I watched this series in Korean (of course – with subtitles) – so authentic. I listened to a English voiceover – well, not bad, but the intonations almost completely disappear. However, this series is more about action than talk, so even with a English voiceover, you hopefully have little to lose.

PPS Regarding the explicit allusions in the series.


video version of the review



Squid Game review /
Ojingeo geim meaning


Hwang Dong-hyuk


Lee Jong-jae, Park Hae-soo, Oh Yeon-soo, Jung Ho-young, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, Kim Ju-ryong, Wi Ha-joon, Yoo Sung-joo, Lee Yoo-mi

South Korea,
50 min.

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